PRINT May 1977

On George Segal’s Reliefs

NOT SINCE PARADISE HAVE HUMAN beings been able to approach each other sexually without abashment or its concomitant, masking. Eroticism depends on delight taken in concealment alternating with exposure. Similarly, art that is sexual is likely to depend upon the mingling of ambiguity with explicitness.

That George Segal has accomplished this in his erotic reliefs may paradoxically be due to the deadening literalism of his better-known work in the round. These plaster relief fragments of lovers and women dispense with the affectation that characterizes the tableaux, works whose blatant verisimilitude has always looked awkward to me. Of course, Segal’s tableau mannequins are not really “accurate” renderings of people, but I think they seem all the more so precisely because the spaces and rooms in which they appear are very accurately “lifelike.” One is tempted to conduct life normally in a

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